“Heroic faith” conjures images of epic scenes like that of the biblical story of David and Goliath. On one side of the sprawling Valley of Elah stood the armies of Israel, aligned for battle. Atop the hills opposite them were the pagan forces of their perennial enemy, the Philistines. One man, albeit an impressive giant of a man, stood on the valley floor shouting insults and challenges to anyone who would dare to take him on. “I defy the ranks of Israel this day; give me a man that we may fight together” (1 Sam. 17:10).
The formidable foe, the individual, taunting thousands of well-armed, yet petrified, soldiers, was Goliath. By contrast, the one willing to take him on in battle was an impossibly young, slight-in-stature kid with no armor and no weapons but a slingshot, some stones and a healthy supply of heroic faith.
David had no problem giving the credit to God for his heroics. By contrast, the self-sufficient, boastful Goliath ended up with a case of severe cranial separation, just above the shoulders! David truly had heroic faith.
One with heroic faith may accomplish much by the world’s standards, but they make sure the glory always goes to God. Someone wrote, “The man who humbly bows before God, is sure to walk upright before men.” There are those who try to take credit for achievements and blame God for failures. Heroic faith should cause us to do just the opposite.
Such faith doesn’t always involve the kind of dramatic, monumental scene like that described in the story of David’s victory. The heroism may be more subtle, but just as worthy of recognition because the hero or heroine is compelled to do the unthinkable, motivated solely by faith in God. One such more subtle heroine is Rahab “the harlot.”
Rahab, whose main story we find in Joshua 2, makes the “Faith Hall of Fame” in Hebrews 11. But rather than being an oft-used example of heroic faith, she is more often the subject of discussions on situational ethics. When is it okay to lie? Sure, she fibbed to hide the Hebrew spies there in Jericho, but where would we be today without that unthinkable, selfless act? She was a woman of heroic faith!
Webster’s defines a hero as “One greatly regarded for his achievements or qualities.” Although you won’t find it in the dictionary, one with heroic faith is, “One who greatly regards God’s achievements and qualities.” King Saul—Israel’s first king—had to learn about heroic faith the hard way. The first and most basic lesson had to do with the fact that such faith begins with obedience to God’s commands. Saul had a difficult time with that reality. We all do from time to time. But rather than recognizing it, repenting and showing regard for God after his blatant disobedience, “Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself” (1 Sam. 15:12). Such behavior ultimately cost Saul his throne and his life.
Heroic faith is demonstrated in how we live. It is saving faith. We are not saved by the works, but the faith that is demonstrated in works is the kind of faith the Apostle James writes about when he asks rhetorically, “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14). No amount of good deeds could tilt the scales of our justification toward Heaven. It is faith alone—faith in Christ—that saves us. So why does James emphasize good deeds? Simply because they are the “fruit” that demonstrates what we really are. We have a word for apple trees that never bear apples, fig trees that fail to grow figs, grapevines that produce no grapes. The appropriate word would be “dead.” James says faith without action is “dead” too. Dead faith doesn’t get people into Heaven. Heroic faith is the opposite.
Toward the end of that listing in the Hebrews 11 Faith Hall of Fame, one of the common threads of heroic faith is demonstrated: the willingness of the “faith heroes” to sacrifice. Often, it was to die for what they believed, and, more importantly, to die for the Object of their faith. Because of their faith in God, the writer to the Hebrews says some
“…were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; …They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword” (Hebrews 11:35&37).
In our present circumstances, it might not be so drastic. Still, it may mean going to a foreign land—to some remote jungle, or simply to appear foolish to a lost and critical world.
Are you a person of heroic faith? How does it show? Where’s the fruit?
“He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him.” —2 Kings 18:5